VANCOUVER - Rachael Pelat was given a day to make her decision. She didn't need half a second. Why not, she figured. What did she have to lose? Well, other than her new job.
Two weeks after joining the Vancouver Whitecaps women's team on a temporary basis, Pelat is still a salesperson with Soccerwest in Surrey and White Rock. It's not a stretch to say a few more games like her first three with the W-League club and who knows, she may not need a part-time job next summer.
Pelat was one of six players added to the Whitecaps roster for the month of June to help fill the void created by the loss of a number of the team's starters to Canada's Under-20 team. Lining up on defence with fellow hired hand Chelsea Stang along with full-time Whitecaps Eden Hingwing and German fullback Katrin Schmidt, Pelat has played almost every minute of every game during Vancouver's recent three-game road trip through California. The Delta native is expected to make her home debut as a professional against the league-leading Pali Bues on Sunday at Swangard Stadium.
"I really never saw it coming, it really was a complete shock," said Pelat, who received an e-mail from Whitecaps assistant coach Marc Rizzardo in early June asking if she would be interested in joining the second-place club for four games. All six players were told there was no guarantees on playing time and that their commitment would just last a few weeks. "He made it pretty clear what the deal was, but for me there wasn't much to think over - it was the opportunity of a lifetime. Playing for the Whitecaps to me is such a big deal, it's what I've always dreamed of. So to get the opportunity ... yeah, there was no way I wasn't going to take him up on it. No matter what I had to do at work, I was going to play. I'm just so appreciative that work was so understanding."
Pelat spent three seasons with the Langara Falcons of the CCAA, winning a pair of national titles, before transferring to SFU for her senior year. Most recently, she won a provincial women's title with Surrey United. Rizzardo, a former head coach of the Falcons men's team, said his familiarity with Pelat never left him any doubt that she could make the jump to the pro ranks.
"I knew her personality and strengths on the field would be a good fit," said Rizzardo, adding he's been pleased with the play of all six pickups. "For me, it's no a surprise she's done so well ... for some who haven't seen her play or are not so familiar it may be though."
Very sound defensively, what sets Pelat apart is her ability to attack out of the back and read the play. She's excellent at getting the ball upfield then joining the rush as her three goals in 16 starts with the Clan suggest.
Despite a number of accolades - she was named CCAA's player of the year and Sport B.C.'s college athlete of the year in 2007 - nothing in her sporting career quite compared to seeing her name on the Whitecaps starting roster for last Wednesday's 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Legends.
"I've never been so nervous - I didn't want to let myself down and more importantly, I didn't want to let Marc down," she said, during her lunch break from her day job on Thursday. "I'm just so grateful for the opportunity."
While all six call-ups will have fulfilled their obligation following Sunday's important game, they could be asked to continue practicing with the Whitecaps for the remainder of the season. After that, who knows what could be in store for next season.
"Some have made a strong statement that they are able to compete at this level," said Rizzardo. "They all have a legit shot at knocking on the door - if not here with other teams."
Palet said she has no expectations.
"I have hopes," she says meekly, not wanting to say too much. "It's just been so nice to get a taste of it. I'm so happy for the experience. Now I've had it, I don't want it to go away."
With that type of attitude, hopes can become reality.
© Vancouver Sun